A comprehensive survey of human history—which reveals a grave ecological predicament—suggests that reconnection with nature and redirection of technology could create a new, sustainable lifestyle.
“Somewhere along the way we lost sight of what it means to be human,” Stadtmiller (Electronics, 2003, etc.) laments in this book. In the search for an ever more convenient lifestyle, humanity introduced a false dichotomy between technology and nature, according to the author. Life should not be a contest against nature, he contends, but a partnership with it—with technology acting as a force for good rather than an instigator of pollution. As the title suggests, the book comprises three sections. The first is nothing less than a thorough, lucid tour through human history, from the Big Bang through the space race and the ascendancy of computers—quite an achievement in 170 pages. The author zeros in on human evolution: tool use, brain power, hunter-gatherers, and the rise of civilizations and religions. His short synopses of Christianity and Islam are especially helpful. In Part II, he considers the keys to life on Earth—energy, clean air and water, and biodiversity—and how these are changed through human action. For instance, he clearly and forthrightly sets out evidence for climate change in Chapter 10. The final section emphasizes the necessity of getting back to a “Native Earth Society” based on simplicity and respect for nature. His case for cutting consumption is not only environmental, but also monetary. The information about energy ratings and usage is perhaps overly technical for laypeople, but tips for ensuring appliances are as efficient as possible are straightforward. The advice embraces a continuum of radicalism: yes, some may cycle or carpool, the book acknowledges, but those who commute alone by automobile can still be environmentally conscious by checking tire pressure regularly, using cruise control, etc. A pleasant late section of the memoir relates how Stadtmiller’s early nature connection was developed at his grandparents’ Pennsylvania farm. His image of a future society—especially zero population growth—may seem too good to be true, yet he gives achievable steps for working toward one’s ideals.
A book that offers convincing historical and environmental thinking.